by Tom Utescher
Host Springside Chestnut Hill Academy won its opening game in the Pa. Independent Schools girls basketball tournament last Saturday, when the eighth-seeded Lions pulled away late to top the visiting Perkiomen School Panthers, 61-50.
Sophomore guard Marissa Pownall came off the Blue Devils’ bench to funnel in a team-high 22 points, and her classmate Lindsay Hiner added 13 points in the win. Senior point guard Julia Schumacher chalked up nine points, eight assists, and five rebounds, while freshman forward Chloe Burns combined eight points with 10 rebounds for the winners, whose record rose to 8-14 overall.
SCH earned a place in the quarterfinal round, but there the Devils must face top-seeded Episcopal Academy, which defeated Springside Chestnut Hill twice on the way to winning its second straight Inter-Ac League championship. In another opening-round contest on Saturday, Episcopal pounded number 16 Solebury School, 57-20.
Perkiomen, a member of the Tri-County League and the ninth seed for the Indy Schools tourney, ended its season on Saturday with an overall record of 19-4.
With Saturday’s win, SCH appeared to be back on an even keel after some wild swings earlier in the week. On Tuesday the Blue Devils had upset Inter-Ac runner-up Germantown Academy, 60-49, to finish 5-7 in the league (fifth place). The next afternoon, the Blue Devils’ shooting percentage plummeted as they fell to Hill School, 55-50.
Underscoring the inconsistency of the Devils’ performance in these back-to-back days, GA trounced Hill, 68-38, in a first-round Pa. Independent Schools game on Friday night.
Against GA, SCH bolted to an 18-2 lead and was up 28-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots chipped away and got back within seven points at the three-quarter mark (45-38), but the Blue Devils held firm in the fourth round to win by 11.
Schumacher dealt seven assists and scored a game-high 21 points, and Hiner was right behind, incorporating five three-point field goals into a 20-point effort. Junior guard Caroline Henry had eight points, while junior forward Olivia Bryon scored six points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Rounding out the scoring were Pownall with three points, and Burns (eight rebounds), with two.
GA was led by senior Margaret Anne Hubbell with 15 points, and sophomores Lauren Oeth and Kendall Grasela, with 14 and nine, respectively. Hubbell’s total got her to 991 career points, and she smashed through the 1000-point barrier on Friday by slapping 31 on the Hill School.
Springside Chestnut Hill’s lackluster showing against Hill on Wednesday had left supporters wondering which group of Devils would show up for the Indy Tournament debut three days later.
Perkiomen’s original starting point guard entered SCH’s Vare Field House on crutches, but shooting guard Nicole Pupillo was on fire from the outside early in the game.
Knocking down four three-pointers, she scored 13 points in the first quarter, which ended with the visitors up, 16-13.
“We told our girls about their really good shooter, but they didn’t process it right away,” said first-year SCH head coach Joe Maguire. “We had sort of a lack of focus at the start of the game.”
Fortunately, after Schumacher and sophomore Essence Walden got the Devils started with regular field goals, the hosts hit some treys of their own. Hiner struck first from the loop, then Schumacher, and then Pownall, who entered the game late in the opening period to pop in the first of her six triples.
“Marissa’s a really good shooter, but she was struggling a bit earlier in the season,” Maguire said. “She’s been putting in extra work on her shot, and she came up big for us today, and also against Hill.”
After the Panthers went up 19-15 a few minutes into the second quarter, Pownall hit two more treys and scored on a fast-break feed from Schumacher to help power a 12-2 run for the home team. However, Perkiomen forward Kristen Burdo scored twice in the final minute to make it a two-point game at halftime, with the locals up, 27-25.
The Panthers inched in front, 28-27, early in the third round, then SCH seized the lead for good in a 10-0 surge that included two three-pointers by Pownall and a pair of lay-ups from Burns. Perkiomen wouldn’t go away, though, and was only four points behind at the three-quarter mark, 42-38.
Hiner, who sat for a spell earlier in the game after picking up two quick fouls, stuck a three-point shot from the right wing to open the final stanza. The Panthers responded with a lay-up, but then the Blue Devils pulled away over the last five minutes.
“We played good defense, and we made them go at a faster pace than they wanted to,” Maguire remarked.
A baseline shot by Walden was the Blue Devils’ only field goal during the stretch run, but they shot 14-for-15 from the foul line. Hiner was seven-for-seven, and Schumacher was four-for-four from the stripe. Pownall chipped in with two free throws, and it was fellow 10th-grader Drew Kevitch who put the game’s final point on the board from the foul line.
“We’re always telling the girls that making lay-ups and foul shots is the difference between winning and losing,” Maguire said. “I was happy to see us get to 60 points twice this week. It would’ve been nice to win all three games, but at least the two wins we got were in the league game and the tournament game.”